Speech by Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă at the plenary session of the Parliament
Presentation of the Work Programme of Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in the Romanian Parliament
President of the Senate,
Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies,
Dear Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Members of the Romanian Government,
Starting January 1, 2019, Romania will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time since its EU accession. The EU accession represented the fulfillment of a national aspiration and this new challenge stands for a historic moment for our country which we need to honor properly. Our country’s European course, an irreversible choice which we all assumed, brought Romania where it stands at present: a country with a healthy economic growth, a stable democracy and last but not least, a safe country.
Taking on this very important role is an event for Romania which we should not politicize in any way. Over the next six months, Europe will look carefully toward Romania as the most important news about EU’s future will come from here, from Bucharest. There will be multiple challenges however we must be aware that Europe’s future also means the future of our children.
Strongly attached to the European idea, we will strive for a strong and unitary Europe in all its dimensions – political, economic and social – as this is the best solution for the future of the European project.
It is therefore important to show the entire Europe that Romania is a country worthy of leading the Union, a country worthy of contributing decisively to the future of the European space whose members we too are.
As I stated before, I believe in consensus, balance and cooperation.
In relation to this important stake for our country, there is no longer room for hubris or political resentments, for personal interests or sterile confrontations. I resume my call for political peace and consensus that I made at the solemn sitting of Parliament on the occasion of the Centennial Year. We have a national project that requires this.
Irrespective of your political opinions, please consider first our common interest as an EU Member State.
I’m only asking you to show decency in political discourse and to abstain during this period from launching actions or political messages that could affect Romania’s image. We have this obligation to our country. Only united will we be able to campaign for Romania to be treated with respect. Only united will we be stronger in our efforts so that Romanians enjoy the same rights and freedoms like all the other European citizens.
I will kindly request you to be first Romanian citizens over the next six months, to present your country with pride and in a positive manner before Europe so that we win the respect of the entire European community.
Taking over the presidency will allow Romania to play a role of facilitator of balance and consensus and to continue promoting a consensual approach based on unity, cohesion and solidarity.
As regards the Government, I assure you that we have very seriously looked at this historic moment for our country. We have thoroughly prepared ourselves, each Minister has a detailed agenda regarding the duties and objectives related to the presidency and I assure you that Romania is not and will be no less than the other member states.
Two weeks ago, I called from this rostrum for a united, better and European Romania. Today, I have come before you with the same vision for Europe too: a united Europe, better one and why not, more “European”.
That is why the motto of the Presidency to be exercised by Romania will be “Cohesion, a common European value”.
All the actions we will carry out over the next 6 months will be to support and consolidate this concept of cohesion, which underpins the entire European architecture. We will act to reduce development gaps, to ensure equal access to benefits, to remove the factors generating separations or hierarchies between the Member States.
We must be able to overcome the approaches of the type: old Member States versus new Member States or West versus East, the demarcation lines, the development gaps, in favor of a Europe that advances, in unison with its internal voices, with its objectives.
There are several dimensions of this essential concept of cohesion.
First of all, we are talking about the economic cohesion between the Member States, which must aim at diminishing the development gaps and strengthening the single market. We realize, of course, that there is a natural economic competition between the European Union states or even between the development regions of the European space. We must be equally aware that an accelerated growth in the less developed regions will imply a much stronger Europe, a natural decline in labor migration from these regions to more developed ones. Reducing development gaps entails including the increase in the purchasing power in these areas of Europe and implicitly more attractive markets for the sale of products made within the Union.
Secondly, we are talking about social cohesion, which should ensure benefits, guarantees and equal opportunities for all European citizens. There must no more first –class and second-class citizens in the European Union. There must be equal access for all European citizens to the social resources and benefits promoted within the Union so as to strengthen their confidence in the European institutions and especially in the future of the European Union. All European citizens must feel in a concrete way that they are better- off, that they are living and will live better and that they will have access to more benefits inside the EU than outside this space.
Last but not least, we are talking about political cohesion, whereby I understand equal treatment and single and fair standards for all those belonging to this European family. Like any other Member State, Romania wants to be treated with respect and to enjoy equal rights within this Union. Respect means fair treatment, real participation in major decisions, and taking into account the positions expressed by each Member State. Mutual respect between the EU member states should not only be found in the European Treaty and European directives, but also in the attitude and dialogue of the European institutions and the Member States.
Dear Members of Parliament,
Starting from this concept of cohesion, with all the meanings I have mentioned here, I designed the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
These priorities are organized on four pillars, which will underpin our actions:
1. Europe of convergence
2. Europe of safety
3. Europe, global actor, and
4. Europe of shared values
Let me briefly present you each of these four pillars of our programme:
First Pillar: Europe of convergence: growth, cohesion, competitiveness, connectivity.
The convergence and cohesion designed to ensure a sustainable and fair development to all European citizens are essential for the promotion of an united Europe and for boosting EU competitiveness at the global level. These must be milestones for action at European level, reflecting at the same time Romania’s interests as a member state of the European Union.
The decisions on the future of European policies must be reflected in the Union’s financing priorities. Therefore, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will contribute to the design of the next Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020 in order to attain the objectives in the next seven years, so as to ensure a balance between growth and convergence policies in the EU.
Europe is currently in a period of economic recovery, a situation which is due both to the efforts of the Member States and the measures taken at European level to deepen the Economic and Monetary Union.
The Union’s economic and monetary architecture is currently stronger, this is an incontestable proof of the cohesion in action at European level. However, further steps are needed to strengthen cohesion from this point of view. In this context, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union intends to advance economic, fiscal and fiscal works in order to stimulate growth and investment and support structural reforms. Moreover, as you know, in Romania, we completed the substantiation report of the National Euro Changeover Plan. Our goal is for Romania to adopt the euro by 2024. We are directly interested in helping strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union during our tenure.
From the same perspective of convergence, we are interested in the social dimension by implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights. We will promote inclusive and high performing education. We are interested in ensuring equal opportunities and increasing labor mobility on the Internal Market.
Another direction of action is the promotion of research and innovation, and in this respect, we are primarily concerned with digitization and connectivity as the main factors to boost the competitiveness of European industry.
The digitization of European industry will be a first national priority topic to be promoted at EU level. We will stimulate the diversification of the current industrial base in the EU by promoting digitization and the implementation of artificial intelligence in the industrial processes.
Another priority objective is connectivity. Ensuring the real convergence we have talked about so far depends directly on making connections of all kinds, especially in less developed areas. Linking these regions to the rest of Europe in all possible ways through transport, energy and digital networks is the safest and most effective way of development.
Connectivity secures the functional circulation flows of commodities, natural resources, energy or human resources essential to economic development.
The second pillar of Romania’s programme: Europe of safety
I am referring here to the EU’s internal security, the management of external borders, cyber security.
Starting from the core concept of Cohesion, we will promote cooperation between Member States to prepare the European Union to cope with the new security challenges that jeopardize the safety of the citizens and the European space.
There is currently a wide range of risks and threats that can undermine the values and prosperity of our open societies.
As regards internal security, we will focus on increasing cooperation and interoperability at European level between specific national systems and structures. We are mainly interested in protecting citizens, companies and public institutions in the virtual space and increasing the resilience of the Union to cyber attacks.
Cyber security can no longer be considered as an option, therefore, any project regarding the information society must take into account the cyber security component. As President of the Council of the European Union, we intend to make a decisive contribution in this field.
Other priority related to the EU space security is the fight against terrorism. In this respect, we intend to streamline and even expand the mandate of the European Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute terrorism offenses.
Migration is another important issue on the European long-term agenda. It is an extremely difficult dossier, which has failed to coagulate a unitary position of the Member States. That is why we are planning to formulate new solutions that guarantee efficient and sustainable management. We are particularly interested in strengthening the EU’s external borders, including by strengthening the operational capability of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
In our view, it is also important to promote cooperation with origin and transit states. I hold the firm belief that the most effective way of addressing the migration issue is by combating its deep causes, the source of this phenomenon.
The third pillar of the programme we propose under our presidency is: Europe as global actor.
And in this matter too, we are referring to the same concept of cohesion that defines our vision. The European Union’s actions on a global scale should start from the joint commitments assumed through the EU’s Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy.
In this respect, we will promote the consolidation of the European Union’s defense and security capabilities in close connection with similar NATO processes. Romania will support the actions in the field of Common Security and Defense Policy, with a strong emphasis on the instruments provided in the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, the European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation. We are also interested in strengthening the EU – NATO Strategic Partnership.
A special chapter in the Union’s foreign policy during the Romanian presidency will be devoted to the Black Sea which should occupy a central place on the EU’s agenda, including from the perspective of Black Sea Synergy reinvigoration.
Another external priority will be the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans in order to provide more external and internal security. We will focus on developing dialogue and involving the young people in managing issues in the region, and on the EU’s strategic communication on Southeast Europe.
We equally want coordinated and coherent actions in the neighborhood of the Union, and the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Eastern Partnership will be an important moment in this respect.
Last but not least, promoting trade interests, both by strengthening multilateralism and upgrading the multilateral trading system, and by expanding free trade and economic partnership agreements, will be key milestones during our presidency.
The fourth, but not the last, pillar of our programme is “Europe of common values”
And here I refer to stimulating European cohesion by continually reporting to the common values on which the Union is based.
Only in this way can we effectively combat racism, intolerance, xenophobia, populism, anti-Semitism and deter hate speech, which we are encountering more and more frequently lately.
Only in this way can we help ensure the equal treatment that all Member States and all European citizens aspire to.
I am also of the opinion that it is necessary to encourage the young people’s involvement in shaping a strong Europe, based on shared European values.
Concomitantly, during our tenure, we will back the legislative initiatives relative to European citizens’ participation in the European legislative process, those relative to social progress and reducing social inequalities, relative to gender equality which will be promoted at EU level especially on the labor market and business, such as combating differences in actual pay between women and men.
Last but not least, we will take action to combat rasism, intolerance, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and hate speech. I emphasized twice this aspect which I consider as very important.
There is a general concern at European level to combat online misinformation and false news, including by improving media literacy and developing European mechanisms that promote good practices in combating disinformation.
All these initiatives will contribute to securing greater cohesion at the EU level.
Distinguished Presidents of the two Chambers of the Romanian Parliament,
Dear Members of Parliament,
The rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union is a responsibility incumbent upon us, as part of the commitment undertaken by our accession 11 years ago. At the same time, it is a great opportunity to project our vision with a view to strengthening the European project.
The dynamic European context in which we will evolve will confer particular specificity to our mandate, the more so as it occurs at a time of rethinking of the European project. In less than six months, a new European Parliament will be elected. Given this electoral context, we have the opportunity of promoting a Union more strongly oriented towards its citizens and its founding principles.
I want us to have a realistic and ambitious approach to this mission. I wish that by the end of the six-month mandate, Romania will have a much stronger profile within the European Union.
I firmly believe that 2019 can be the year of relaunching the European idea and the extraordinary Summit in Sibiu can be an important moment in this respect. That is why we are working together so that the new Strategic Agenda of the Union is defined at this event to be held during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU. It is a document that will guide the Union’s actions in the medium term. More than ever, there is a need for Member States to send a clear signal regarding the ability to continue together, in the same direction, within a strong and unified project.
In view of the effective start of our mandate, I deemed it necessary to return to you to present you at this moment the assessment of the role we are going to play over the next six months.
As you know, the context in which a Member State assumes such a duty has a significant contribution to defining its action and outcome parameters. This underpinned the thinking of the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council and the manner this presidency will act for the benefit of advancing the European project.
By the scope of its exercise and implicitly by the visibility our country will get at European and international level, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU is surely the most important country project after our accession to the European Union. That is why I hold the firm belief that this project should bring together all the political support needed to fulfil this major responsibility that Romania will have in the next six months.
Romania has experienced difficult times in the last hundred years, but this moment of utmost responsibility is perhaps the best confirmation of the identity evolution, the trajectory of our society in the modern age. This is because now, a hundred years after the First World War and the Great Union, we can speak of the presidency exercised by a European Romania in the name of common values and interests.
Finally, I would like to reiterate, in this context, that the Government has made and continues to make every effort to carry out this mandate in the best possible conditions.
We are aware of the responsibility which is incumbent upon us in exercising this mandate as well as of the challenges that the European Union has to respond to, in this important moment of its development, in the context of Brexit and before elections for the European Parliament.
That is why, as I assured all the European interlocutors during talks over the last few months and weeks, I also affirm before you today that we are prepared and deeply committed to assuming and exercising this major responsibility. At the same time, we must all be aware that the success of a Presidency equally depends on the level of commitment of all the European actors we will work with, either partner countries or European institutions. The way we will go through this semester will be illustrative not only of Romania’s performance but also of the entire European Union at an essential moment of its existence.
Photo: Romanian Government